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The Planning Authority’s Boards & Committees: Composition & Functions

Chapter 552 is the current law regulating the Planning Authority originally set up in 1992, which  provides for the setting up of various boards and committees having specific responsibilities and terms of reference. Navigating the interaction of the various boards and committees can be confusing at times.

The main entities of the Planning Authority which interact with the public on matters relating to development control or planning control are:

  • The Planning Board
  • The Planning Commission
  • The Executive Council

The Planning Board is composed of a Chairperson, five independent members, a person who occupies the post of Chairperson of the Planning Commission, two members who are to be Members of Parliament and are appointed by the PM and the Leader of the Opposition respectively, a member representing the interests of environmental NGOs, another representing the Malta Environment Authority, three public officers representing Government.

The Planning Board is entrusted with deciding planning applications and imposing permit conditions which it may deem fit in order to balance various interests, although this function is normally delegated to the Planning Commission. When deciding on a major project which relates to a particular site within the boundaries of a particular local council, that council is also empowered to appoint a member who is considered as a member of the Planning Board in deciding that particular application.

There are a number of divisions of the Planning Commission and members are appointed by the Minister, with three permanent members and a supplementary member making up each Commission. As already mentioned, the Planning Commissions are to carry out those functions on development control delegated to them by the Planning Board. At present, there are 3 divisions in place: one decides applications Outside Development Zones and within Urban Conservation Areas, another decides on Regularisation of Development and a third decides on Development Within Scheme. Decisions are binding so long as they are supported by the votes of not less than 2 of its members.

The administration of the Planning Authority, previously the remit of the Planning Board, has been entrusted to the Executive Council in recent years, with the executive conduct and control of the organization and its employees being the responsibility of its Executive Chairperson. The Chairperson or its representative has the right to be present at Planning Board and Commission meetings and at any meetings of the boards and committees which may be set up by the Executive Council.

The Executive Council is composed of the  Executive Chairperson appointed directly by the Minister, two permanent members being the Chairperson and deputy Chairperson of the Planning Board, two permanent independent members appointed by the Minister, two members appointed by the Malta Environment Authority whom the Authority is bound to call in to attend those meetings where matters concerning polices scheduling and planning control applications are to be considered, and an observatory member from one of a number of government boards listed in the Fourth Schedule of Chapter 552.

When considering scheduling and conservation orders or emergency conservation orders, the Council is bound to call in the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage.

Among other responsibilities, the Executive Council is tasked with the formulation of planning policies, enforcement of control, the regulation of alignment and levelling schemes and national mapping.

Whilst it is the Executive Council which is responsible for the approval and setting out of the objectives of the Authority, their implementation is entrusted to the Executive Chairperson. The Chairperson may only be dismissed by Resolution of the House of Representatives for a just cause, thus ensuring his independence as much as possible.

In a nutshell therefore, the consideration of matters relating to development control are the remit of the Planning Board and the Planning Commission, whereas the consideration of matters relating to planning control and scheduling are the remit of the Executive Council which, together with its Chairperson, are responsible for the administration of the Planning Authority itself.